Indian engineers and job losses: How to stay updated in this era of automation

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 04, 2018 12:13 hrs
A "Now Hiring" sign is posted on a Verizon store in Manhattan in New York

The world of hi-tech has always been like a morass of weeds floating over a river in full-spate. Both the underlying technology and the tools that “float” over it to help realise the technology have been constantly changing.

The last three years however feels more like hot rock floating over a volcanic eruption. Technology has been changing faster than ever and in directions that few could have predicted with any stretch of imagination. IoT is merging with Blockchain to become BIoT.

Why job losses?

Unlimited free storage is now a given for virtually every netizen. AI is penetrating new areas every day – be it healthcare, legal, finance or retail. The technology world has truly entered the exponential part of the S-Curve.

While futurists were predicting that the world as we know it would morph dramatically by 2050, new thinking is now predicting that this is likely to happen by 2030. Our world will change beyond recognition over the next 13 years.

Manipal Global Education, along with a host of industry veterans, published a landmark report that predicts that the world of technology would be shaken to its core by the advances made in the fields of BiSMAC (Blockchain, IoT, Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud). Old jobs will disappear or change while new jobs will be designed on a weekly basis. The change has already started to happen and will accelerate over the next two years (by 2020).

Organizations are grappling with this change and either infusing new talent into their organizations; or reskilling their existing staff to rise up to the challenges.

Unfortunately, it is more reactive than proactive – and companies are barely able to satisfy the demands from projects in the new domains. More importantly, they are unable to prepare their workforce for what the next five years may bring.

It is falling increasingly more on the shoulders of the employees of such companies to prepare themselves for the future. Employees who wait for companies to reskill or upskill them will be left behind – the train has left the station and is accelerating. Employees have to ask themselves what areas they need to build competence on, and begin to do so proactively.

The changes that are being predicted are not far into the future. This change will happen within the career span of the engineers who have entered the workforce over the last five years. It is therefore imperative that this workforce prepare itself for this dynamic future.

What to do?

CURE is the answer to the What!

C: Cross-skilling – where a learner picks up expertise in areas adjacent to his/her current area of expertise.

U: Upskilling – gaining deeper expertise in certain areas relevant to current and future job requirements.

R: Reskilling – gaining expertise in completely new areas because current areas of competence are likely to be deemphasized or become obsolete.

E: Expert-skilling – in which learners learn how to solve “real-world-problems” under the coaching of an industry veteran.

Studies indicate that focusing on the following in a structured manner will help the engineer remain employable.

  1. Application Domain: every application domains has its nuances. These could be transportation, BFSI, retail, healthcare and so on. Engineers must pick a domain and start gaining deep expertise in it. The future will not be relevant for those who choose to flirt with many domains – but very briefly and shallowly.
  2. Engineering Domain: Real time embedded system, IoT based architectures, Integrated Circuits, Simulators, Mathematical Modelling,  are examples of engineering domain. So in addition to gaining expertise on specific application domains, it is important to build expertise in specific engineering domains as well.
  3. Technology: Technologies such as mobility, networked devices, swarm devices, cloud computing are areas of expertise that will grow in demand. Pick those that are relevant and gain competence in them.
  4. Platforms: AWS, Azure, Android, IoS are the most popular examples of platforms today. While it is important to understand the instantiation of such platforms, it is even more important to understand the concepts behind them. The reason is that these platforms themselves, will undergo significant change, while in addition, new platforms will emerge.
  5. Tools: languages, compilers, debuggers, testers are nothing more than tools. They define the “how” of realization. This is perhaps the current focus for most engineers. This will continue to be focus areas going forward.

How to learn?

Every person is responsible for his/her career decisions – typically around the five areas mentioned above. As you make these decisions, it is important to start building expertise on them.

Remember, organizations will do their best to make you productive today. You will have to go that extra mile, to keep yourself employable in the future.

To do this, use the following principles:

1) Understand your learning preferences. This will ensure that you are able to develop yourself in the most efficient and effective way possible.The “Memletics Learning Style Inventory” is a powerful way of understanding yourself.

 2) Choose a theme every quarter. This could be IoT in Q1, Cloud in Q2, Energy in Q3 etc. In that quarter, study as much material as possible on the theme. The material could be in the form of MOOC courses, books and articles, podcasts, TED talks, video material, industry journals etc. As you grow in competence, you will realize that it is far easier to keep up to speed with the change that is happening within that theme.

 3) Some learners like to use the Feynman technique. It is a powerful way to learn something new.

 4) Last but not the least; spend at least 5 hours a week investing in your development. My mantra has been 5 hours a week and Rs. 2000 per month. Without this, it is very difficult to keep oneself current and relevant.

This approach is called “Purpose-driven-Learning”.

The future belongs to those who learn constantly. The world is changing far too dynamically for you to wait for the next training program.

Remember, "Continuous Learning is a choice. But then, so too is success!"

Sify Editors add: Meanwhile, on a lighter note, a take on the government position on jobs...

Bhaskaran Srinivasan is Director Academics, Manipal Global Education Services. ​As the director of academics, he guides the academy in innovating as well as delivering education services efficiently. he also helps the academy in improving its performance parameters including top and bottom line, consumer satisfaction, and product and market mix to name a few.


More from Sify: